by BRAD ROLLINS
Hays County election workers failed to count 1,816 votes cast in last November’s general election as a result of “preventable human error,” the county’s new elections administrator said on Monday.
Announcing the results of an internal investigation late this afternoon with a written statement, Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said a central data storage device, called a mobile ballot box, was replaced during early voting at the Hays County Government Center on Oct. 25. Votes recorded on the device were not tabulated as part of results announced on election night and canvassed later by the Hays County Commissioners Court, Anderson said.
“Normally, when a piece of equipment is taken offline in the middle of an election it is quarantined and held for tallying. This particular MBB, evidently, was not quarantined or processed properly. It was set aside and was never tallied as part of the Nov. 8 election contest,” Anderson said.
The uncounted votes did not change the outcome of any elections except a handful of ballot propositions for the Anthem Municipal Utility District near Kyle, Anderson said.
The missing mobile ballot box contained 1,816 votes for various races and propositions in Hays County, Anderson said in the statement. The statement did not say how many individual voters were impacted; the San Marcos Mercury has requested additional information about the election results.
Anderson, who replaced retiring former election administrator Joyce Cowan on Jan. 1, said she has implemented “administrative protocols” to prevent the lapse from happening again.
“My hope is that by sharing this information it will not injure, but instill faith in the reputation of the Hays County election process. My office strives to conduct elections with the utmost accuracy and efficiency. When issues are brought forth, I will investigate and make adjustments, if they are warranted,” Anderson said.
Here is the full text of her statement:
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As the new Election Administrator for Hays County (as of January 1, 2017), I was motivated to look further into the November 8, 2016, election contest for the Anthem MUD. My investigation revealed an anomaly that occurred because of preventable, human error. Since this lapse could have been and should have been prevented, I will make certain that proper administrative protocols are strictly followed in future elections, ensuring an accurate election result. Despite this lapse, I am relieved to say that, other than the Anthem MUD election, the outcomes of the November 8, 2016 election in Hays County were not detrimentally affected and would have been the same as they are currently.
The machines that are used by citizens to cast their ballots communicate with a central data storage device called a Mobile Ballot Box (MBB). The MBB records all votes and is used to calculate the final tally during an election. Dozens of MBBs are used in election polling places around Hays County. My investigation revealed that one MBB was not tallied in the November 8, 2016 election. This particular MBB was overlooked when it was taken offline and replaced at the Hays County Government Center Early Voting site on October 25, 2016. Normally, when a piece of equipment is taken offline in the middle of an election it is quarantined and held for tallying. This particular MBB, evidently, was not quarantined or processed properly. It was set aside and was never tallied as part of the November 8 election contest. The MBB contained 1,816 votes that were not included in the final vote tally for a variety of offices or measures in Hays County.
As I stated before, the inclusion of these votes would not have changed the outcome for any office or measure that was canvassed on the November 8 ballot, with one exception. That outcome, related to the Anthem MUD, has already been corrected in an Election Contest that concluded in December of 2016. The untallied MBB did contain two votes “For” the Anthem MUD bond propositions, along with the election of board members. While I have no way of knowing for certain who cast these ballots, I can say with certainty that two votes for the measures presented were among the results on the MBB that were not tallied on election night.
I notified the Texas Secretary of State – Elections Division about the situation. In the interest of complete transparency, I bring the results of this internal investigation to the public. My office has already installed new policies and procedures to ensure that this does not happen in the future. This mistake is preventable, and our equipment provides opportunities to identify and reconcile anomalies prior to canvassing.
My hope is that by sharing this information it will not injure, but instill faith in the reputation of the Hays County election process. My office strives to conduct elections with the utmost accuracy and efficiency. When issues are brought forth, I will investigate and make adjustments, if they are warranted. I invite any citizen to contact the Elections Office if you have questions about or comments on the process.